In The Know: Charter school funding remains deeply divisive | Gov. hires D.C. staff | Health violations at OKC Jail

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Oklahoma News

‘It’s a damn mess’: Fiscal impact, future of charter school funding resolution unclear: Uncertainty surrounding the State Board of Education’s 4-3 vote last week on a resolution stating that public charter schools should receive the same funding as traditional public schools can be summed up by Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister’s answers to a series of questions Tuesday afternoon. Asked if she had signed the board’s resolution — which she voted against and that would become the basis for the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association dismissing a 2017 lawsuit — Hofmeister said she had not. When asked if she plans on signing the document, she said she did not know. When asked what the results would be if she does or does not sign the settlement, she was also unsure. [NonDoc]

  • (Video) ‘Charter schools are public schools’ says Gov. Stitt in support of state board of education vote [Tulsa World]
  • ‘Corporate greed’ driving Oklahoma education decisions, House Democrats say [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma governor hires $120K-per-year Washington staffer: Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Tuesday that he’s hiring a $120,000-per-year staffer in Washington, D.C., to advocate on the state’s behalf and help protect federal funding. The governor’s office said Christina Gungoll Lepore will help identify federal grant opportunities, communicate the state needs in real time, collaborate with the offices of other governors and “push back on burdensome federal regulations and initiatives which could negatively impact the State.” [AP News] Stitt is the first Oklahoma governor in 30 years to open an office in the nation’s capital. [The Oklahoman] Lepore, originally from Enid, is a former staffer for U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas. [Tulsa World]

Bedbugs, moldy showers: Dozens of health violations found at troubled Oklahoma County jail: An inspection of the Oklahoma County jail in February found moldy showers, a bedbug infestation, cockroaches, overcrowded cells, insufficient staffing and other health violations. One inmate complained of being handcuffed to a bar in a hallway for hours waiting to be returned to his cell after getting medical help. [The Oklahoman]

  • Family of inmate killed by police in hostage situation speaks out [KFOR]
  • After Oklahoma County jail hostage situation, sheriff says ‘life was lost to save a life’ [The Oklahoman]

Health News

After debate about debate, OKC mask mandate remains: A motion to defer a decision on whether to end Oklahoma City’s mask mandate before its scheduled expiration date passed the OKC City Council by a 5-4 margin today. That means the council will next decide whether to end the city’s mask mandate at its April 13 meeting. The current mandate is slated to expire April 30. [NonDoc] Two council members have proposed ending the mandate early, despite recommendations from city health officials that it remain in place. [AP News] Oklahoma City-County Health Department officials attended the virtual meeting and said current data show it is too early to lift the mandate. [The Journal Record] Public health officials had said Monday a particularly dangerous coronavirus variant was circulating in Oklahoma City, though they said it was “not yet circulating at a high level.” [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma ‘looks pretty good,’ but COVID-19 isn’t under control yet, OU epidemiologist says [Tulsa World]
  • COVID-19 in Oklahoma tracker: Updates on new cases, deaths, vaccines for March 2021 [The Oklahoman]

‘I can breathe again.’ How tribes expanded access for Oklahomans seeking COVID-19 vaccines: Several tribes in Oklahoma have been offering COVID-19 vaccines to anyone old enough to get a dose, lifting any requirements for tribal affiliation, age, employment or even state residency, significantly expanding access to the shots for Oklahomans. The expanded access has spurred sighs of relief from those who have benefited from the efficient administration of vaccines by tribal governments. [The Oklahoman]

  • Blood Institute: It’s safe to donate after receiving COVID-19 vaccine [Public Radio Tulsa]

Child abuse, neglect reports decline statewide during pandemic: A decline in the number of child abuse and neglect reports is usually seen as a reason to celebrate. But in the upside down world of COVID-19, state and local social service agencies worry that darker forces may have been at work to cause a decline in child abuse/neglect cases. [Tusla World]

State Government News

Oklahoma House adopts resolution supporting Asian Americans: A resolution condemning violence and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders won unanimous approval from the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday following an appeal from one of its three Asian American members. [Tulsa World] House Resolution 1015 was authored by Rep. Cyndi Munson, an Oklahoma City Democrat who is believed to have been the House’s first Asian American member when she was elected in a 2015 special election. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Bynum says he appreciates state lawmakers’ desire to protect ‘law-abiding citizens’ during riots: Mayor G.T. Bynum says he’s limited in what he can say about proposed state legislation that would protect drivers who unintentionally injure or kill protesters blocking traffic during a riot and punish protesters who block traffic during a riot. [Tulsa World]

  • A guide to bills in the Oklahoma Legislature targeting protest rights [Free Press OKC]

Commission: Senate trucking bill would ‘create havoc’: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has taken the position that Senate Bill 617, intended to streamline government functions related to the trucking industry, would instead “create havoc” and cost both taxpayers and the trucking industry a lot of money. The Legislature, however, is moving ahead with the measure. [The Journal Record]

Lawmakers OK with sanctuary state for guns, not for illegal immigrants: Oklahoma legislators are willing to buck the federal government on guns but not on illegal immigrants, a House of Representatives panel reiterated Tuesday. The House Public Safety Committee approved the Second Amendment Sanctuary State Act — Senate Bill 631, by Sen. Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain — and SB 572, by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, which would forbid any local government from acting as a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants by refusing to comply with federal immigration law. [Tulsa World]

Senate committee approves bill allowing for cocktails to go: Restaurant customers would be able to pick up cocktails to go or have the restaurant deliver them under a measure that passed a Senate panel on Tuesday. House Bill 2122, dubbed the “Oklahoma Cocktails To Go Act of 2021,” passed the Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee by a vote of 10-3. [Tulsa World]

March toll collections jump a Year after pandemic took hold of Oklahoma: If statewide toll collections are any indication, Oklahoma is emerging from the pandemic. Oklahoma Turnpike Authority Finance and Revenue Director Wendy Smith said during a Tuesday meeting her staff has given her an early look at this month’s figures. March 12, 2020, is considered the pandemic start date. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Land ownership focus of legislators during virtual meeting: Redistricting and land ownership were main topics during the Northwest Oklahoma Alliance (NwOA) annual legislative panel which was held virtually on Friday. Among questions from members was the growing concern with land ownership by primarily Chinese owned companies buying land at four times the market value for medical marijuana growing facilities. [Woodward News]

Federal Government News

OK Tribal Nations ramp up, reflect on language preservation efforts after American Rescue Plan: Justin Neely, director of language for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, grew up among elders who told him that if the Potawatomi language is lost, so are the Potawatomi people. Now, the tribal elders who speak those Native American languages are dying from COVID-19 and COVID-complications at much higher rates than white populations. [KGOU]

Criminal Justice News

Stavian Rodriguez case: Family sues OKC police chief, five officers involved in shooting: In a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday against the city, police chief and five officers involved in the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy suspected of robbery, a grieving mother accuses police of being inadequately trained and supervised during a tense standoff, and recklessly firing fatal shots during a chaotic scene. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Resources available to Oklahomans behind on rent as CDC extends the eviction moratorium to June 30: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a last-second extension to the halt on evictions to keep those struggling during the pandemic from homelessness. “The eviction docket is busting at the seams, and people all over are still needing help,” said Ginny Bass Carl, the executive director of Community CARES Partners. [NewsOn6]

  • Hard reset: Federal eviction ban renewed through June [Big If True]

General News

Galvan dedicates life to Chickasaw culture and history: In observance of Women’s History Month, the Chickasaw Nation is celebrating and sharing the stories of dynamic Chickasaw women who have made history and are blazing a trail forward. It is a time nationally dedicated to the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history, a time to share their stories. [The Ada News]

Oklahoma Local News

  • City Council defers mask mandate vote, honors outgoing council members [Free Press OKC]
  • Input sought on Lake Thunderbird water quality [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“It’s a damn mess.”

-A Republican lawmaker speaking about charter school funding discussions following last week’s Board of Education vote to settle a 2017 lawsuit that would effectively allow charter schools to receive local tax dollars [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Percentage of families with children in the U.S. who have both parents working, highlighting the need for paid family and medical leave

[Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics]

Policy Note

Maternity leave: US policy is worst on list of the world’s richest countries: According to a 2019 report by Unicef, which analysed which of the world’s richest countries are most family friendly, Estonia leads the field for new mothers with over 80 weeks of leave at full pay. At the bottom of the table was the United States – which, with a grand total of zero weeks, was the only country in the analysis that offered absolutely no national paid leave. [The Guardian]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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